Blind Mountaineer Conquers the Seven Summits

ByABC News via logo
September 4, 2002, 6:48 PM

TH R E D B O, Australia, Sept. 5 -- After skiing down from the summit of Mount Kosciusko in Australia's Snowy Mountains earlier today, Erik Weihenmayer swooped right into mountaineering history.

The trek up the Australian mountain, followed by the trip down, made it official: Weihenmayer is the first blind person ever to scale all "seven summits," the tallest peaks on each of the seven continents.

Reaching the 7,310-foot peak (the smallest of the seven) put the 34-year-old Weihenmayer in rare company, alongside the world's finest climbers. Fewer than 100 people have ever reached the summit of the world's seven highest peaks.

The Denver man's biggest previous climbing triumph came on May 25, 2001, when he became the first blind man in history to reach the summit of the world's highest mountain, the 29,029-foot Mount Everest in Nepal.

"Blind mountain climber it's like being a Jamaican bobsledder the words just don't connect," Weihenmayer has said in the past.

But in his case they do.

Climbing Past the Naysayers

Just hours after his last big climb, Weihenmayer told ABCNEWS' Good Morning America that he hopes to be judged, as any climber would, simply on the merits of his climbing skills.

"I prefer to be known as a good climber who has done a lot in the mountains and done some pioneering things, but at the same time I happen to be blind," Weihenmayer said.

Bigger names in the climbing community had warned Weihenmayer against climbing Everest. One mountaineer even said he'd lead a rival expedition just so he could be the first to find Weihenmayer's body. But Weihenmayer got the last laugh. After climbing the famed peak he became an instant celebrity, role model and award winner.

"A blind guy climbed Everest," he said at the time. "He didn't get dragged up it."

Mountaineering isn't his only sport. Weihenmayer is a lifelong wrestler and the first recipient of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame's Medal of Courage. He's also an avid biker, runner, a skydiver and one of 12 blind certified open-water scuba divers in the United States.